In this PSN exclusive, you play as The Duke, an awesome and distinctly vampiric-looking demon. I know he's awesome, because he told me so several times while he was beating down (probably) evil monsters. And when you see the destructive power he can unleash, you'll (probably) believe him too. Okay, I'll stop now. Probably.
As you might have guessed from the title, The Duke's princess is missing, presumed stolen. Without any leads, he's forced to accuse the nearest monster. Said monster (which looks suspiciously like that family favourite, Cthulhu) is clearly intimidated by The Duke's awesomeness, and makes a run for it, at which point you take control and give chase. This is done using the d-pad to move left and right, and the face buttons to jump. A second tap will double jump, and hitting a wall lets you jump again before having to land. If this all sounds easy, it is. That is, until you realise you have to jump from platform to platform while your much larger opponents can just fly, crawl, or climb at a steady pace. Each monster is unique, and takes a slightly different approach to catch and defeat.
The primary objective in each level is to double jump into the currently-accused monster to attack it. Successfully attacking three times will allow The Duke to perform a ridiculously over-the-top finishing move. Exactly how he defeats the monster is determined by how awesome he's feeling at the time. The Duke's sense of style requires him to string together "combos" by landing on a different platform with each jump. If he lands on a platform twice in the same combo, the counter resets. Keeping the combo going earns more points, speeds The Duke up, and the higher it is when landing that third hit, the more insane the finishing move. Finishing a monster with a combo of 50+ is a must-see in this game.
Each time you hit a monster, it'll dash ahead quickly, requiring you to catch up again. Then the frustration starts. Some monsters move in front of the area you're climbing, blocking sight of where you're going to land, and your rebound angle is sometimes unpredictable. In a game where accuracy is paramount, it sometimes feels unfair when you miss a ledge you can't see. If you escape with your combo intact, the increasing speed can become both helpful and frustrating. Faster movement is means your reactions have to be that much better as well, and I found that precise landings gradually required more luck and less skill as I approached that critical 50+ point.
The game's graphics are unashamedly 2D, the cartoon style perfectly complementing the quirky humour, and the animation is smooth throughout. The sound effects are similarly cartoon-themed - the sound of The Duke being the lowest point in this respect. Instead of voicing characters, the game substitutes sound effects and subtitles. For the most part, this works but The Duke's awesomeness deserves better. A handful of the monsters sound curiously different to what their appearance would suggest. The music consists of familiar-seeming, looped tracks, all played (probably) on a pipe organ.
Being a PSN Minis game, it's short, but that keeps it from getting repetitive. In fact, I'd say five levels of story mode is pretty much perfect. There's also a score attack mode, with three versions of each story level, and gold, silver and bronze point targets to aim for. These start out easy, but the difficulty ramps up nicely.
Overall, the few troubles I had were more than made up for by the game's sense of fun and style. It makes no pretence at being more than it is, and the simplicity makes it a game that's hard to put down. I told myself "I'll play until I get this next gold" - an hour later, still playing, I realised I achieved my goal 40 minutes earlier, and still wasn't ready to quit.